GLOW Day in Werda

   Some of you know that I wrote before about how I am working on a full GLOW camp for girls with some other PCVs, but I recently just had a GLOW Day event in my village as well. The original plan was for it to be an event just for the boys at the JSS ( Guys Leading Our World) because the girls have had their own events to go to, and the boys were feeling left out. The JSS guidance teachers and I thought it would also be a nice opportunity for the boys to discuss issues that impact them specifically, such as Safe Male Circumcision (SMC), which decreases a boy's or man's chance of getting HIV. Also, issues of dating violence have been coming up at school, and a few of the PACT club boys had spoken with me about how it bothered them that some of their peers felt like it was ok to hit their girlfriends, so we also thought it would be a good way to address those sort of issues. The boys in PACT were enthusiastic about signing up for the event, but the problem is that PACT club doesn't have very many boys in it, and they tried really hard to encourage more of their male peers to sign up, but were only able to get a handful to. I was able to receive supplies for up to 30 students so this left many slots open. To remedy this problem and make it so that the event still took place, we decided to allow some girls to sign up as well, making it a "Guys and Girls Leading Our World" Day instead. I actually think that having the boys and girls there together made the event even better.
   The event was on Saturday and went from 9am until about 3:30pm. There were plenty of snacks, drinks, and food for the students thanks to the DAC (District AIDS Coordinator) Office, which was great. Seventeen students out of those who signed up showed up on Saturday morning, and even though it was not the 30 we had hoped for, it was still a good sized group. The group was made up of 7 boys and 10 girls ranging from Form 1 to Form 3, and some of the students were  involved in PACT club and some were not. Topics discussed on GLOW Day were Gender Norms, SMC for the boys and Self-Esteem for the girls ( We split them for that session so that the boys would still feel comfortable asking questions about SMC), Dating Relationships, Teen Pregnancy and Sexual Rights and Responsibilities, and Abuse and Violence. The students were very engaged and got into some great debates during the day.
    The very first session was about Gender Norms, and right away the boys and the girls brought up some difficult topics and debated with each other very well.  One topic that came up was that it is unfair that girls can wear pants in most cases here, but that a boy would be bullied if he wanted to wear a dress. They even talked about how if a boy wants to do things girls like to do or hangs out with too many girls, people may say he is gay. This lead to a discussion and debate about whether or not gay people are stigmatized in the village or not. Some students said yes people say "harsh words" to someone who is gay here, and others said that gay people would be more likely to be stigmatized or treated poorly in larger villages or cities because there are more "gangs" or "mobs". They also talked about how they think that today it is more likely for girls and boys to change roles rather than to follow the "traditional" way of doing things here, though they still discussed how there are challenges and situations of judgment and discrimination.
   During part of the Dating Relationships section the girls got to write down questions they always wanted to ask boys as a group, and the boys got to write down questions they always wished they could ask girls as a group. This activity also lead to some great discussions. Some things that came up were girls viewing love in a different way than boys viewing love sometimes and how that can cause confusion and problems in relationships between girls and boys. Also, some of the boys were upset that the girls said that physical appearance is something that attracts them to a boy initially, even though they had said that something that attracted them to girls initially was also physical appearance. The boys also talked about how unfair it is that they are always expected to be the ones to pay on dates, and some of the girls agreed with this, while others still thought the boys should pay. We were able to bring a lot of the dating relationship discussion back to gender norms.
    A lot of debate and discussion came out of the Teen Pregnancy session as well. We asked the students to list what the consequences of teen pregnancy were for girls and what they were for boys, and the majority of the consequences that were listed ended up being under the girl list. One of the consequences that the students spent a lot of time talking about was that a girl would likely drop out of school,while the boy would be able to stay in school. Something else that the students spent a lot of time talking about was the idea that a girl who has had a baby may not be desirable to boys in the future because it is known now that she is not a virgin, since she had a baby. The girls were upset by this comment and the unfairness of the girl being judged about this when the boy was obviously no longer a virgin either. Some of the boys had a difficult time understanding how that was unfair, but I think it was good for the girls and boys  to be able to have the discussion and share each other's view points, and hopefully they gained some new perspectives and could see some of the inequality.
 The Abuse and Violence session was focused mostly on dating violence because that is something that has been coming up at the school and was something that came up during various discussions throughout the day. The students all agreed that different types of violence occur in Werda, and some of the violence even occurs at school. They said that there are physical fights outside almost every day that are broken up by teachers, students say cruel things to each other and abuse each other emotionally because of gossip, and that there is even sexual and emotional abuse that happens between people who are dating. They also talked about random acts of violence at school when male students hide together in the bathrooms and attack female students when they go in (The teacher who was present at this event was made aware of the situation). The nonchalance  of the students as they talked about some of this was upsetting, but we spent a lot of time talking afterward about why abuse happens, how it is wrong, the consequences of abuse, who they can report it to, and some possible solutions, such as them watching out for each other and supporting each other ( the boys watching out for the girls and girls watching out for the boys). We also emphasized that men and boys are not the only ones who can be abusive because there were a couple points when the girls talked about boys in general as being abusive and violent, and we wanted to be clear that not all boys and men are and that girls and women can be abusive too.
   We ended the day on a positive note by assessing what they learned during the day with a game. Student had to listen to statements and then decide whether or not to go to the Agree or Disagree side of the room. All of the statements were factual and based on the sessions from the day. Based on this activity and the discussions throughout the day, it seems like they learned something and had fun. Each student was given a certificate for having participated, and we took a group picture before saying our goodbyes.
   I really love events like this! Thank you to my three PCV friends who helped facilitate this day! You know who you are!


A Family in Need....at Home in America

I know the view of many people I have met in Botswana has been that life in America is always easy, everyone is wealthy, and life is always fair there. I've spent a lot of time here talking to people about how that is not the case, and I have been able to have some great conversations with people I've met here about that. Currently a friend and sorority sister of mine at home in America is going through something that is very unfair and not at all easy. The letter below is from my friend Mandi's mother. Mandi and her family are in need of support during this difficult time. Please read this letter below and see the link at the bottom of the page to make a donation to help this family. I know many people from different parts of the world read this blog and that no matter where in the world you live, you understand the importance of helping a family in need. 

Mandi is a spirited young woman who is mother of two beautiful children, a supportive wife, loving daughter, and the best friend anyone could ask for. Mandi is the definition of survivor. When Mandi was 9 years old, she was diagnosed with a disease called Lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune disease where the body's immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue. This results in symptoms such as inflammation, swelling, and damage to joints, skin, kidneys, blood, the heart, and lungs. Mandi'
s daily treatments in her battle against Lupus involve 17 medications daily, daily steroids injections, weekly chemotherapy treatments, dialysis treatments are just to name a few. Over the past 2 years, Mandi has been in for the fight of her life, or at least we thought, until we had hit the bottom 22 days. 22 days ago, Mandi was admitted into the critical care unit of a local hospital here in Maine with a 106.7 fever, quickly became unconscious, and life saving measures were taken to stabilize her. Upon further testing, it was found that she has four blood infections going throughout her body causing chaos that lead to the heart & heart valves becoming infected and damaged. Treating these infections that caused the incredibly high fever along with the organ shut down would require some of the most caustic medications available over a long period of time. These medications are not compatible with her Lupus medications (the chemotherapy, methetrexate cancels out the effects of the antibiotics in treating the infection) thus having to result in the inability to treat her potentially deadly disease (Lupus) while treating a most certainly deadly infections (the 4 she currently has). The doctors made the decision to pull her off all Lupus medications and take it hour by hour treating the infection. All the mean time, Mandi's Husband Rob, who is her rock & endless source of support, is left with the responsibility of running a household, taking care of their two beautiful children, and working a full time job that requires him to be there Monday-Saturday, 10 hours a day in order to support his families of four very financially demanding needs. During these horrific times, Rob & Mandi should be focused on this fight for Mandi's life, not if they are able to keep a roof over their children's heads, food in their bellies, gas in the car to go to doctors appointments/treatments, and money for the 17 medications Mandi takes daily. Mandi has not only dedicated her life professionally to helping others (being apart of the field of social work, ranging with working with youth in foster care to the elderly in rural communities) but also personally. Even though Mandi would have to spend 6 hours a day in dialysis or would have just spent the morning at the infusion center for chemotherapy, nothing would stop her from stopping to help a friend in need or spending time at one of the many non for profit organizations she volunteered for. Mandi has always been the one there for everyone else, lets now show her how much we care & be there for her in her families great time of need. Help the Thew family focus on what is really important...fighting for this young woman's life! No family should be expected to worry about finances during such a hard time. Show your love, support, and appreciate for such a wonderful woman & wonderful family...Help Mandi recover, show your support and donate now!! Thank you very much, every little bit helps!

PayPal Email Donations Can be Sent to: Maddietrentonsmom@yahoo.com

If you do not have PayPal or would prefer to use the site for Mandi's PayPal account you can visit http://supportmandi.wordpress.com/
Credit cards will be accepted on this page. If you have any issues with payments or questions please contact macleod@uchicago.edu.


We have a Responsibility...Everywhere

A good friend of mine from home sent me this poem. I like it because to me it is a great reminder for any adult that there are children everywhere in the world who need our help and support. I know many people have this view of Africa being full of children who are starving and neglected, but the truth is that is not always the case and that there are many children right in the U.S. who are abused, neglected, and hungry every day. Friends and family who often tell me that I'm "saving the world" or "making such a difference", I want you to know that those of you who work with children right at home in the U.S. are making a difference as well. We as adults have a responsibility to help support children in whatever part of the world we are in. 

We Have A Responsibility

We have responsibility for children who put chocolate fingers everywhere,
Who like to be tickled,
Who stomp in puddles and ruin their new pants,
Who sneak popsicles before supper,
Who erase holes in math workbooks,
Who can never find their shoes.

And we have responsibility for those children
Who stare at photographers from behind hungry eyes
Who can’t bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers,
Who never “counted potatoes,”
Who are born in places we wouldn’t be caught dead,
Who never go to the circus
Who live in an x-rated world.

We have responsibility for children
Who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
Who sleep with the dog and bury the goldfish,
Who hug in a hurry and forget their lunch money,
Who cover themselves with band-aids and sing off-key,
Who squeeze toothpaste all over the sink,
Who slurp their soup.

And we have responsibility for children
Who never get dessert,
Who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,
Who watch their parents watch them die,
Who can’t find any bread to steal,
Who don’t have any rooms to clean up,
Whose pictures aren’t on anybody’s dresser,
Whose monsters are real.

We have responsibility for children
Who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,
Who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,
Who like ghost stories,
Who shove dirty clothes under their bed, and never rinse out the tub,
Who get visits from the tooth fairy,
Who don’t like to be kissed in front of the carpools,
Who squirm in church and scream on the phone,
Whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles can make us cry.

And we have responsibility for children
Whose nightmares come in daytime,
Who will eat anything,
Who have never seen a dentist,
Who aren’t spoiled by anybody,
Who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,
Who live and move, but have no being.

We have responsibility for children
Who want to be carried and for those who must,
For those we never give up on and
For those who don’t get a second chance,
For those we smother, and
For those who will grab the hand of anybody kind enough to offer it.

By Ina Hughes


Dear Students of Botswana

Here are some of the letters that some students from my hometown in Maine in my brother's Social Studies class wrote back to the students I work with here. I've blanked out names here, but each student from America wrote a letter to a specific student here. The plan is for this pen pal program to continue for as long as all of the kids are interested. I will be helping  my students here reply soon!

Dear ________,
Hi. I am a 6th grader at Sedomocha Middle School. I live in Dover-Foxcroft. We get out of school June 13th. In my free time I like to listen to music and hang out with some of my friends. The class that I like the best is science, but I really like English and Language Arts too. My science teacher makes a lot of weird faces. I would really like to come to Africa and see you and your friends. It would be lots of fun.

I am going into the 7th grade. I live in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine. We here in Maine have some pretty brutal winters, and sometimes we have some good days in the summer. I can only speak English. One of my favorite things to do is ride my dirt bike. A couple more things that I like to do are play baseball, basketball, and football.

I am a twelve yea old girl, and I am going into the 7th grade. I live with my parents and my two annoying, little sisters. I go to Sedomocha Middle School. My favorite class is science, but my most favorite thing to do is band because I play the flute, and it is really fun. I am happy to hear that the workshop brought kindness to your school. Ever time I hear something good it makes me really happy. Also, good luck in school, and I hope you enjoy learning English.

I am writing this letter from my school, SeDoMoCha, in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine. SeDoMoCha stands for four towns in Maine close to Dover-Foxcroft or its abbreviated form, Dover. The towns are Sebec, Dover, Monson, and Charleston. The state of Maine is always beautiful, spring, summer, fall, and winter. When I'm writing this letter it is summer here so I'm guessing it is winter there. My sister is Kristen or Neo, as you call her. I wish I could see your country because I have seen pictures of it, and it is beautiful. I am 12 and going into the 7th grade. I like to read, write, draw, and dance. I hope I will be able to visit someday!  P.S. Please write back!

You have a wonderful description of your country. I would love to visit someday. I am in the 6th grade and go to SeDoMoCha Middle School. In Maine we love to swim, take hikes, and in the winter we get lots of snow so we almost always play outside during that time or anytime. Maine has museums, forts, water parks, and a lot more! Our capital is Augusta. I would love for you to be my pen pal! You sound like you have lots of fun in your beautiful country of Botswana!


Dear American Students

Before the last school break, and before American students went on their summer break, some of my Standard 7 PACT club students wrote some great letters to my 12 year old brother's Social Studies classroom in America (small town Maine). Here are a handful of the letters that my students here wrote. I didn't include their names because I want to respect their privacy. I'm not posting every letter because there were so many! I'm VERY proud of these kids for writing these letters in English because it was very difficult for some of them, and they worked very hard to get to this point. Soon I will be sharing the letters that the American students wrote back with these students, and I will then post some of them. I'm so excited for the students here in Botswana to receive their replies this week!

Dear American Students,
I am writing this letter for students of America because I want to tell you about the reason that Neo has helped the Standard 7 students. She is very responsible and good so that is the reason we learn so much. I think Neo came to Werda to help the children and people who have problems. We can tell Neo our problems.I want to go to America to see you because your person came to Botswana to help us in peace and tolerance. I am happy that PACT club is a very good idea and is making a good village for Botswana. I hope I can come to America someday.

Dear American Students,
I would like to write a letter to tell you about my country, Botswana. The capital city of Botswana is Gaborone. Botswana is a large country, but it has a small population. It has very many wild animals and diamonds. Werda is in the southern part of the country , and it has a lot of sandy soil, which is very infertile for plants. The soil is loose and easily blown away by wind. In some places there are heaps of sand called sand dunes. 

Dear American Student,
I am writing this letter for American students because I want to tell you about my country, Botswana. It is very rich in wild animals. I live in the village of Werda, which is situated in the southern part of the country. It has a lot of sandy soil, which isn't good for plants. 
I am looking forward to hearing a bit about your country and town. 

Dear American Students,
Hello. As a Standard 7 student I would like to write a letter to you in America to tell you about our country and what it looks like. Botswana is a beautiful country that is liked by tourists because they come to see the wild animals of Botswana and the national parks, such as Chobe National Park and mining such as Jwaneng and Tati mines. 
Our Botswana team named the Zebras took a trip to your country and played with one of your teams and won. How was your team's experience? 
Botswana is a country that was ruled by the British and in 1944 it had a name called Bechuanaland. It took independence in 1966 to be called Botswana.Now Botswana is a peaceful country with no wars or conflicts. 
In Botswana are many American people, but there is a person who I love because she is a honest, respectful and cooperative person. Her name is Neo
I want you to write a letter to me to tell me about your country. I am looking forward to it. 

Dear American Students,
I would like to write a letter to tell you about our country, Botswana. Botswana's capital city is Gaborone, We have received an American person whose name is Kristen Sheppard, and her Setswana name is Neo, meaning gift. 
Our country Botswana is located in the southern part of Africa. Gaborone is a big capital city of Botswana, and Botswana is rich in wild animals that attract tourists from all over the world and generate the income of this country. Botswana has parks and game reserves. There are few rivers in Botswana. Kristen Sheppard has formed a club that is called PACT. This stands for Peer Approach to Counseling Teens. She teaches us about things that will happen when we become adults. This is an interesting program. 
I hope you will reply to tell me a bit about your country.

Dear Students,
I am writing this letter to tell you about my village and the country and learn more about rural areas in your country. 
I am a grade 7 student in a primary school This is the highest level in our school education system. At the end of the year we sit for a trail National Examination called Primary School Leaving Examination . If we pass we than proceed to Junior Secondary School for three years and finally to Senior Secondary school for two years. Then we can go to territory education (University). 
I live in a poor, rural area where our parents are not employed but rely on pastoral farming. The problem is that the only source of water is underground water through boreholes  and is very scarce and salty. It is difficult for growing plants and for drinking. Mind you, the village is found in the Kgalagadi Desert. Trees are scattered and short. They have very small leaves and thick barks. I am looking forward to learning about the rural areas in America. 


Please Help Support an Event to Empower Teenage Girls in Botswana

   I wrote in the past about the GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) Camp that I was a part of facilitating in my district last February being a very rewarding experience. I'm currently working on another GLOW camp to take place in a fellow PCV's village from Sep. 29th-Oct 3rd of this year. Forty Five teenage girls form nine different villages, including my village, will attend the camp. In Botswana, teenage girls are a very high risk population for getting HIV, and Botswana has the second highest prevalence rate of HIV in the world.  Girls who attend the camp will learn how to protect themselves from getting HIV and be empowered to make healthy life decisions. This camp is something that myself and the eight other volunteers who have been working to plan it are very passionate about. The grant that is funding the camp also requires that we raise some donations from home. We still need more donations to make this camp happen. If you are interested in donating here is the link 637-105. Any little bit that you are able to donate makes a difference. Thank you!


My Second PCV Vacation: Durban

   I recently went on a vacation to Durban, South Africa with a group of six other PCVs. There is so much about the trip that I could write about, but I'll choose a few highlights to focus on. Since we went during the off season we were able to get an awesome deal at a hotel right on the Indian Ocean, which meant we were able to spend time in the water all four days that we were there. The water was so warm even though it is winter time in this part of the world, and the weather was great the entire time that we were there.  It was absolutely wonderful. Our first afternoon in Durban we found, through some transport mishaps, an amazing Indian restaurant that had an all you can eat buffet! We spent a couple of hours chowing down on every bit of Indian food that we could possibly fit in our stomachs. We spent a day at an aquarium where some of us went shark cage diving, which was a fun experience. It was also really cool just being at an aquarium since I have so many great memories of growing up going to the New England Aquarium in Boston, and I miss it. The walk to the aquarium was also wonderful because we could walk along the boardwalk the entire way so we just took our time walking and site-seeing. We followed our aquarium day with dinner at a great sushi restaurant, washed down with very yummy Long Island Iced Teas. During our trip, we also found this fun street called Florida St. that had a lot of great restaurants and bars. A few of us found a bar nearby that happened to be having a karaoke night, which was fun. The person running karaoke pressured us into singing three ABBA songs with some other people, and then wanted to hear some of our "Yankee songs". (Our reaction was "Huh, Yankee songs? hmmm) .We decided to sing "Baby Got Back" and "I Want Dance with Somebody". Some of my other favorite parts of the trip were that we could watch the sunrise because we had balconies off of our rooms and the views were amazing, hot showers, and just being able to blend in. It was a nice break, and I had a lot of fun with my friends I traveled with. It was drama-free and relaxing, and I'm very grateful for that.